Church makes changes to annual Christmas devotional

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A nativity statue seemingly floats on top of the reflecting pond near the Salt Lake Temple. © 2013 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved
A nativity statue seemingly floats on top of the reflecting pond near the Salt Lake Temple. © 2013 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made changes to this year’s annual Christmas devotional, which was broadcast across the world on Dec. 9.

Previously known as the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, this year’s broadcast featured three different speakers from the leadership of the Church after President Thomas S. Monson delivered a brief message about the spirit of Christmas.

“We find the real joy on Christmas when we make the Savior the focus of the season,” President Monson said.

He said that oftentimes people get caught up in the “hurrying and scurrying” of the season, but our celebration of Christmas should be “a reflection of the love and selflessness taught by the Savior.”

“To catch the real spirit of Christmas we only need drop the last syllable, and it becomes the spirit of Christ,” he said. “May one and all have a joy-filled Christmas.”

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and The Orchestra at Temple Square provided the music for the evening, with arrangements of “Joy to the World,” “Christmas Bells Are Ringing,” “Away In A Manger,” “Far, Far Away On Judea’s Plains” and “Silent Night.”

Rosemary A. Wixom, General Primary president, began her message by illustrating the excitement many children feel around Christmas time.

“We miss something if we don’t see Christmas through a child’s eye,” Sister Wixom said.

She continued with a story of a woman telling the Biblical account of Christ’s birth to some young Cub Scouts. The boys continued to ask, “What happens next?” as she progressed through different events of His life.

“His gift to us is what happens next,” the woman said in her story.

The question “What happens next?” was a prevalent theme in Sister Wixom’s talk, and she applied it to many principles of the gospel and the spirit of Christmas.

“The wonder and awe of Christmas is just a beginning. The babe born in Bethlehem gives us purpose for life,” she said. “Through Christlike and childlike faith we seek Him and feel His influence.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy began his message by relating some of the scriptural prophecies of Christ’s birth from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah as well as King Benjamin and Nephi from the Book of Mormon.

He also told the story of John Macfarlane, who penned the music for the hymn “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains” and related how he was able to capture the spirit of Judea despite having never stepped foot there.

Elder Rasband closed his address with his testimony of the Savior.

“I bear my witness that our Eternal Father lives,” he said. “His plan of happiness profoundly blesses the lives of all.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve concluded the broadcast with a message centered on the Plan of Salvation as outlined by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Because of His Atonement, immortality became a reality for all, and eternal life became a possibility for all,” Elder Nelson said.

Elder Nelson addressed many topics during his talk including missionary work, the importance of the family, repentance and peace.

“Peace can come to you and your soul as you build faith in the Prince of Peace,” he said.

Elder Nelson’s talk was filled with short videos and audio clips, one of which was a clip of a room full of small children gathered around him singing the children’s hymn, “I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus.”

All of the clips centered around the ideas of the plan of salvation and the blessings of the Christmas season.

“Christmas time is cherished family time; family time is sacred time,” he said. “God bless you, my dear brothers and sisters; may each of you have a very merry Christmas, and enjoy the blessings of the Prince of Peace.”

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